Filed under: Architecture, Art, Europe, History, Literature, Music, Pop Culture, United Kingdom | Tags: Architecture- Art & Learning, Considering the Middle Ages, Not so Dark - Dark Ages
Professor Anthony Esolen for Prager University. We’ve been told that the Middle Ages, also known as the Dark Ages, were characterized by oppression ignorance and backwardness in areas like human rights, science, health and the arts? We have been misled.
Filed under: Domestic Policy, Freedom, Humor, Literature, News of the Weird, Terrorism | Tags: Ghosts and Goblins, Protection from Witches, Trick or Treat
Happy Halloween 2014
Witches can only come out at midnight and they must be gone by the time the first morning star appears.
Witches are very curious, and they stop to count everything. You can protect yourself from witches by placing a broom or a bowl of salt outside your door. The witch will stop to count the straws in the broom or the grains of salt in the bowl. Before she can finish counting them, the morning star will appear, and then she will have to leave. You can also sleep with a sieve over your face. The witch will try to count all the holes in the sieve, but she will be unable to.
Witches do not like the color blue because it is the color of the heavens. If you wear a blue bead or a blue bracelet, a witch cannot get you. If you paint your windowsill blue, a witch cannot come into your room.
If you carry a penny in your pocket or wear a new dime in each shoe, witches can’t harm you.
Witches have fun on Halloween.
(From The Hodgepodge Book)
Filed under: Education, Entertainment, Freedom, History, Humor, Literature | Tags: History-Science-Fiction, The Reading Habit, What Do You Read and Why?
What do you do when someone asks you to read an article because it’s “an important one?” Do you obediently read it, assuming that if your friend recommends it, it is worth your time? Do you accept the article, suggesting that you will read it later when you have more time? Do you just refuse to read it because you’re sure it is not of interest?
I fit in the first category. I’m a speedy reader, and it doesn’t take me long to get through even a long piece. But I have known a lot of what I think of as ‘lazy readers’ whose first reaction is that they don’t have time. Or they only want to read what they choose to read. It’s as if reading is a task to be engaged in only when required. Was learning to read a struggle in school? There are people who read competently, but without enjoyment or need for information, but who will spend hours on Twitter. Do you prefer to get your information instead by video, or podcast? Is reading a chore?
I have a friend who is a special education expert, with particular emphasis on reading, and reading disabilities. She went into her state’s prisons at one time, to test prisoners, and found that the numbers who had some form of reading disability was far, far higher than in the general population.
There are lots of people out there who just don’t read much, and people who do not read books at all. They are just busy with other things.
If you prowl around the internet and read blogs, you are clearly a reader. But what about those other folks who are not? How do people go all the way through university, and, as adults, never read?
Seattle is usually described as the part of the country where most people read a lot. We have busy libraries, lots of colleges and universities, and lots of writers. Must be something to do with the weather, which encourages a brisk fire in the fireplace. a good book and a cup of coffee.
ADDENDUM: I guess I shouldn’t ask others about their favorite books, if I don’t reveal my own. Patrick O’Brian’s series of books about Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin and the Royal Navy in the late 1700s and early 1800s. There are 20 books in the series and I have read them probably ten times, and always found them fascinating to re-read. Most novels don’t welcome even a second reading. Master and Commander is the first, and only a page in and you are hooked. Master and Commander was a great movie too, although based on bits from several of the books.
Filed under: Health Care, History, Literature, Science/Technology, United Kingdom | Tags: An Epidemic of Cholera, London - 1854, Recycling the Refuse
The Night-Soil Men
It is August 1854, and London is a city of scavengers. Just the names alone read now like some kind of exotic zoological catalogue; bone-pickers, rag-gatherers, pure-finders, dredgermen, mud-larks, sewer-hunters, dustmen, night-soil men, bunters, toshes, shoremen. These were the London underclasses, at least a hundred thousand strong. So immense were their numbers that had the scavengers broken off and formed their own city, it would have been the fifth-largest in all of England. But the diversity and precision of their routines were more remarkable than their sheer number. Early risers strolling along the Thames would see the toshers wading through the muck of low tide, dressed almost comically in flowing velveteen coats, their oversized pockets filled with stray bits of copper recovered from the water’s edge. The toshers walked with a lantern strapped to their chest to help them see in the predawn gloom, and carried an eight-foot-long pole to test the ground in front of them, and to pull themselves out when they stumbled into a quagmire. The pole and the eerie glow of the lantern through the robes gave them the look of ragged wizards, scouring the foul river’s edge for magic coins. Beside them fluttered the mud-larks, often children, dressed in tatters and content to scavenge all the waste that the toshers rejected as below their standard: lumps of coal, old wood, scraps of rope.
………Above the river, in the streets of the city, the pure-finders eked out a living by collecting dog shit (colloquially called “pure”) while the bone-pickers foraged for carcasses of any stripe. Below ground, in the cramped but growing network of tunnels beneath London’s streets, the sewer-hunters slogged through the flowing waste of the metropolis. Every few months, an unusually dense pocket of methane gas would be ignited by one of their kerosene lamps and the hapless soul would be incinerated twenty feet below ground, in a river of raw sewage. …
………It usually takes the bone-picker from seven to nine hours to go over his rounds, during which time he travels from 20 to 30 miles with a quarter to a half hundredweight on his back. In the summer he usually reaches home about eleven of the day, and in the winter about one or two. On his return home he proceeds to sort the contents of his bag. He separates the rags from the bones, and these again from the old metal (if he is lucky enough to have found any). He divides the rags into various lots, according as they are white or coloured; and if he have picked up any pieces of canvas or sacking, he makes these also into a separate parcel. When has finished the sorting he takes his several lots to the ragshop or the marine-store dealer, and realizes upon them whatever they may be worth. For the white rags he gets from 2d. to 3d per pound, according as they are clean or soiled. The white rags are very difficult to be found; they are mostly very dirty therefore sold with the coloured ones at the rate of about 5 lbs. for 2d.
London in 1854 was a Victorian metropolis trying to make do with an Elizabethan public infrastructure. The city was vast even by today’s standards, with two and a half million people crammed inside a thirty-mile circumference. Most of the techniques for managing that kind of population density that we now take for granted—recycling centers, public-health departments, garbage collection, safe sewage removal — hadn’t yet been invented. These people were actually performing an essential service for their community. Removing the refuse of a large city is one of the most important social functions. The scavengers of Victorian London weren’t just getting rid of all that refuse, they were recycling it.
The above excerpt comes from a fascinating and thought-provoking book called The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson. In that summer of 1854, London was seized with a violent outbreak of cholera that no one knew how to stop. As the epidemic spread a maverick physician and a local curate try to solve the most pressing medical riddle of their time.
There is so much there, the intertwined histories of the spread of disease, the rise of cities, and the nature of scientific inquiry. If we don’t have an understanding of history and from whence we have come, we can’t really understand today.
Filed under: History, Literature, United Kingdom | Tags: Battle of Boswerth Field, Last Plantagenet King, Richare III King of England
What a fascinating story. DNA testing has confirmed that the skeleton dug up below a parking lot behind the council buildings in Leicester, is that of Richard III, the last Plantagenet King of England. Richard III was one of Shakespeare’s great villains. The bones were found amid the foundations of a Franciscan friary, the very place where history said Richard’s body was taken after the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485.
Modern science could compare mitochondrial DNA taken from the 500-year-old skeleton with DNA from a living descendant of Richard’s sister. Richard became king in 1483, taking power from his nephew, the 12-year-old Edward V. Richard was said to have imprisoned his two nephews in the Tower of London, and within months of Richard’s taking the throne, the two nephews disappeared. Tudor supporters claim that he had his nephews murdered.
This portrait from the National Portrait Gallery dates from the 16th century, so it may not be representative, or may be derived from lost sketches.
Plantagenet supporters say a closer look at Richard’s reign shows him as one of the most progressive rules of his time who promoted trade and books. Another battle will occur over where Richard’s remains are to be buried. Leicester wants to keep him as a tourist attraction, others believe he should be interred. Richard III enthusiasts had called for the skeleton to be buried in York and others in Westminster Abbey or Windsor Castle, where other monarchs are interred.
What is most fascinating to me is the extent to which the discovery of the skeleton confirms the history as it is known. The body’s hands appeared to have been tied, and the skeleton shows that he probably died from blows to the head, which is consistent with contemporary accounts. The skeleton shows severe spinal abnormality from scoliosis which shows that Shakespeare’s depiction of Richard as a hunchback was accurate. The discovery will renew interest in the last Plantagenet King of England, and perhaps renew interest in history as well.
Filed under: Entertainment, History, Literature, Movies | Tags: In Trouble Off Cape Hatteras, The Bounty Trilogy, The HMS Bounty Replica
The tall ship HMS Bounty, is a replica of the famous ship sent by the Royal Navy on a botanical mission. It was sent to the South Pacific to acquire breadfruit plants and transport them to the British West Indies. The mission was never completed. Anger and bad relationships between the ship’s commander, Lieutenant William Bligh and his acting Sailing Master, Fletcher Christian, led to one of the world’s most famous mutinies. Fletcher Christian and about half the crew seized the vessel on October 28, 1789.
On December 23, 1787, the Bounty sailed from Spithead for Tahiti. The crew spent an entire month trying to round Cape Horn, but the weather prevented it. Bligh proceeded East, and rounded the Cape of Good Hope, and crossed the Indian Ocean. Bounty reached Tahiti on October 26, 1788 after ten months at sea. Bligh and the crew spent five months in Tahiti. Many of the crew formed relations with young women, had themselves tattooed in native fashion. They set sail with their cargo of breadfruit on 4 April 1789.
Some 1300 miles west of Tahiti, near Tonga, mutiny broke out. The ship was taken bloodlessly, and apparently without any struggle except by Bligh himself. Of the 42 men on the ship, 22 joined Christian in mutiny, 18 remained loyal to Bligh and two were passive.
The mutineers ordered Bligh, two midshipmen, the surgeon’s mate, and the ship’s clerk into the ship’s boat, along with a few of the seamen. They sailed 30 nautical miles to Tofua in search of supplies, but were forced to flee when they found the natives hostile and one man was killed. Bligh then set out for the Dutch port of Coupang, 3,500 nautical miles from Tofua, one of the great feats of navigation and seamanship. He safely arrived there 47 days later, having lost no men during the voyage.
The Mutineers returned to Tahiti, where they set the loyalists and sixteen of the mutineers ashore. Fletcher Christian, eight other crewmen, six Tahitian men and eleven women, one with a baby set sail in the Bounty. They passed through the Fiji Islands, and the Cook Islands trying to find a safe place. On 15 January 1790 they rediscovered Pitcairn Island, which had been misplaced on admiralty maps. To prevent discovery and anyone’s escape, the ship was burned in what is now called Bounty Bay.
The stories were admirably told by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall in a trilogy : Mutiny on the Bounty, Men Against the Sea, and Pitcairn’s Island. They were originally published in the 1930s, and in many other versions ever since. Amazon has a selection of all different printings.I loved the books when I was a kid.
Movies have been made of Mutiny on the Bounty with Clark Gable and Charles Laughton, (1935), with Marlon Brando and Trevor Howard (1962), and a 1984 movie called The Bounty with Mel Gibson and Anthony Hopkins —who goes somewhat mad. There was an earlier one with Errol Flynn, and one even earlier than that from Australia which is long lost. It’s a great sea story, based on real history, and always popular. Captain Bligh is portrayed as cruel, totally mad, a master navigator and a firm but harsh captain. Books have been written about Bligh’s accomplishments, the aftermath for Pitcairn Islanders, the rediscovery of Pitcairn. That one voyage has proved to be fodder for a multitude of stories.
Which brings us back to today. The HMS Bounty, which I believe is the replica built for the 1962 movie, was caught up in Hurricane Sandy off Cape Hatteras today. They lost steerage, and were taking on water. The Coast Guard performed a heroic rescue, and picked up 14 of the 16 crew members, all in survival suits. Two were missing, but the Coast Guard continued to search.
The sea is relatively warm, around 70° and one was known to be wearing a survival suit, though they didn’t know if the other missing man had one. It’s not known if the Bounty is still afloat. It is 223 years and one day since the original Mutiny took place.
ADDENDUM: The Coast Guard has suspended their search for the Captain of the Bounty. The missing crew member was found, unresponsive, and died at the hospital. The ship has gone down.